Tantalus definition

tăntə-ləs
A king who for his crimes was condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink, and with fruit hanging above him that receded when he reached for it.
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(gr. myth., person, proper) A king, son of Zeus, doomed in the lower world to stand in water that always recedes when he tries to drink it and under branches of fruit that always remain just out of reach.
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Something of an evasive or retreating nature, something consistently out of reach; a tantalising thing.
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A stork of the genus Mycteria (formerly Tantalus), especially the American wood ibis, Mycteria americana.
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A stand in which to lock up drink decanters while keeping them visible.
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(Greek mythology) A Phrygian king who was condemned to remain in Tartarus, chin deep in water, with fruit-laden branches hanging above his head; whenever he tried to drink or eat, the water and fruit receded out of reach.
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Other Word Forms

Noun

Singular:
tantalus
Plural:
tantaluses

Origin of tantalus

  • Latin from Greek Tantalos telə- in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • From Latin Tantalus, from Ancient Greek Τανταλος (Tantalos, “Tantalus"), a Phrygian king in Greek mythology who was condemned to stand in a pool of water which receded every time he tried to drink, and with overhanging branches of fruit which pulled back whenever he tried to eat.

    From Wiktionary